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There were serious flaws in the logic and historical accuracy of the Einat Wilf's article, "Israel's Independence Day" (guest commentary, May 5, 1995). On the point of logic, I will let the article speak for itself. The writer declares "any attempt to attribute this mass exodus [of the Palestinians in 1948] to a single cause is only true in part, and therefore false." It seems it would be slightly more precise to say that although there were other pressures upon the Palestinians to flee their homeland in 1948, one indisputable cause of the mass exodus was the brutal violence with which the Israeli militia drove the civilian population out. The article does concede that "it was the policy of the Israeli High Command to secure the evacuation by the Arabs." Yet it fails to explain that the Israelis used all means necessary (which included destruction of entire towns, massacres of Palestinians who refused to flee and, in the case of the Dier Yassin massacre, some who were not given the choice) in order to insure that the Palestinians would be gone.
The article goes on to argue that another reason for the mass exodus of the Palestinians is that "the Arabs, unlike the Jews, had somewhere else to go if they wanted to avoid the terrors of war" they would have faced if they tried to stay. If Palestinians had somewhere else to go, why would over two million "choose" to live in refugee camps? Does it seems reasonable that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would decide to live as an oppressed and unwelcome minority within other countries if they did not realize in 1949 that any attempt to stay could cost them their lives? A rather recent example of the abuse of Palestinians in other countries was the expulsion of over 300,000 Palestinians from Kuwait after the war in Iraq. Is not the Palestinian need for a homeland as sacred as that of other peoples?
The article also states that "Israel proceeded to carry out one of the most stable transitions into democratic statehood...in January of 1949 [Israel] extend[ed] votes and citizenship rights equally to all, including its substantial Arab minority." Yet until after 1956, Palestinians living in Israel needed to obtain travel permits in order to leave their towns. In South Africa, this is known as apartheid. What kind of democracy discriminates against some of its people based on race?
Lastly, the article continues to refer to the two sides as the "Arabs" and the "Jews." Any person who has studies Middle East history objectively should understand that the conflict and negotiation is primarily between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It is those two groups of people who must learn to live together if peace is to prevail. It seems to me that the first step is acknowledging history fairly and logically. Betty L. Shamieh '96
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